Guest Article #97: The COP 18 Gender Decision – A Step Towards Gender Equality in the Climate Regime

The final COP 18 Gender Decision, titled “Promoting gender balance and improving the participation of women in UNFCCC negotiations and in the representation of Parties in bodies established pursuant to the Convention or the Kyoto Protocol,” reaffirms a COP decision taken over a decade ago. Despite the COP 7 decision, participation of women in UNFCCC bodies and as Party delegates overall has remained low.

The COP 18 Gender Decision adds new provisions to increase women's participation, striving toward gender balance on delegations, and giving more attention and resources toward the ultimate goal of gender equality in the climate regime.

Key Operational Provisions

The COP 18 Gender Decision calls for: COP 22 to review progress towards the goal of gender balance (by UNFCCC Parties and other institutions established under the Convention and Kyoto Protocol) (paras. 4 and 5); the UNFCCC Secretariat to collect and report annually on sex-disaggregated data on bodies under the Convention and Kyoto Protocol (including regional bodies and country delegations) “in order to enable the tracking of progress made towards the goal of gender balance in advancing gender-sensitive climate policy” (para. 8); gender to be included as a standing COP agenda item to allow the COP to consider the UNFCCC Secretariat's annual reporting (para. 9); the UNFCCC Secretariat to organize an in-session COP 19 workshop on “gender balance in the UNFCCC process, gender-sensitive climate policy and capacity-building activities to promote the greater participation of women in the UNFCCC process” (para. 10); and submissions from Parties and observer organizations on “the goal of gender […] in order to improve women's participation and inform more effective climate change policy that addresses the needs of women and men equally” (paras. 2 & 11).

Twitter Chat with Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary

On May 14, the GGCA had the honor of hosting Christiana Figueres for a Twitter chat on the COP 18 Gender Decision. Over 200 Twitter participants contributed nearly 700 Tweets during the one-hour chat, creating a great resource of experience and research shared through links to stories, videos and data on women's participation and key contributions to effective climate policy and practice.

The GGCA Secretariat kicked off the Twitter chat inviting participants to consider why a gender-sensitive approach is important to the climate solution. Participants chimed in with comments highlighting experiences demonstrating that gender-sensitive policies result in more effective climate change mitigation and adaptation. The chat quickly turned to consider the current statistics and data on women's participation in the UNFCCC process. WEDO shared UNFCCC participation figures from 2008-2012 that demonstrate that women's overall involvement and at the highest levels (i.e. Heads of delegation) have tended to increase (full report). Participants pointed to the importance of training and capacity building to further strengthen these participation numbers, while recognizing that increasing women's participation alone will not automatically lead to gender-responsive climate change policy and practice. In response to questions regarding action taken by the UNFCCC Secretariat, Christiana Figueres showcased the new UNFCCC gender webpage, and pointed to the upcoming opportunities for Parties and observers to contribute and engage via the September 2 gender submissions, the June 7 side event and the Momentum for Change initiative, which includes a Women for Results pillar in 2013. Recognizing that women are key to climate solutions, participants voiced interest in continued engagement in the implementation of the COP 18 Gender Decision, and thanked Christiana Figueres for her leadership and vision. Please see the Storify summary for more highlights and links to gender resources.

The COP 18 Gender Decision maps out the following schedule of important input and events addressing gender:

  • September 2, 2013 – deadline for gender submissions from Parties and observer organizations;
  • November 2013 – In-session COP 19 Gender Workshop;
  • November 2013 - COP 19 Gender Day;
  • 2016 - COP 22 review of progress towards goal of gender balance; and
  • Yearly – UNFCCC Secretariat collects data and reports on gender balance in delegations.

The Gender Decision of COP 18 is an important opportunity to strengthen women's participation and gender balance in the UNFCCC as critical steps on a path towards gender equality in the climate regime.

The GGCA was formally launched in December 2007 during the UNFCCC climate change talks in Bali, Indonesia, by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). Since then, GGCA membership has grown to include over 80 UN and civil society organizations, working together to ensure that climate change decision-making processes, policies, and initiatives at all levels are gender responsive. The GGCA Secretariat chairs the Collective Working Group on the COP 18 Gender Decision, bringing together gender experts and advocates from the GGCA membership, the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency, and other international gender and climate networks.